Monday, April 30, 2012
The Writer's Block Interviews: Roseanne Kurstedt
1) Tell us a bit about yourself and where you live and work. How did you become an author?
I live in a New Jersey suburb with my two boys, husband, and dog Dorothy. I love to play tennis but really only play in the summer. I also enjoy skiing and photography. I grew up in New York and went to college at Tufts University in Massachusetts. I’ve had quite a few jobs. I’ve been a waitress, hostess, bartender, and encyclopedia sales person (yes, you read that correctly). My more professional jobs have been in advertising and schools. I was a print media specialist at Young and Rubicam and I taught 4-6th grade in NYC. I’ve lived in Hong Kong and while there, helped start Hong Kong Academy Primary School, where I was the Director of Curriculum. I have a Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction and I am currently an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University. Throughout all that learning and traveling, I always wrote. I’ve actually been writing since I was a child. My college essays were excerpts from my journal and one of the first presents my husband gave me, which was also one of the best, was a beautiful leather bound writing notebook.
2) Do you gravitate toward specific genres in your writing? Who is your ideal reader?
I guess I gravitate to personal narrative or memoir as all my books stem from real life experiences, like a childhood memory or just something that happened in the course of life with my family. Since I write picture books, my audience is both adults and children. I want the adults to delight in the story as much as the children. After all, it’s the adults who are reading and re-reading the books the children choose. I think my ideal reader is someone who appreciates words and language, celebrates childhood and the joys of being a kid, but also values simple, quiet stories of family.
3) Tell us about Teaching Writing with Picture Books as Models (Scholastic, 2000). What will readers learn from it?
Teaching Writing with Picture Books as Models was one of the first professional books for teachers solely dedicated to discussing using picture books as a way to support students’ writing development. Picture books are so accessible to students since they parallel what students own writing looks like. Therefore it’s natural to use picture books to demonstrate various craft strategies, voice, and story elements. The book is very user friendly and illustrates how teachers might introduce picture books into their own writing curriculum to support student growth and an appreciation for language and the written word.
4) Who or what inspired your newest book, And I Thought About You?
And I Thought About You was inspired by a bedtime routine my son and I created while we lived in Hong Kong. Every night, after reading books together, we would talk about what we had done that day. After sharing what we did, we’d say “and I thought about you.” Even though the events of our day would typically change the one constant was that we were in each other’s thoughts throughout the day.
5) Describe your road(s) to publication. Was the approach for your new book much different than that of your current work?
The road to publication has been a long one. I initially sent the manuscript to some traditional publishers – and while there was significant interest – one publisher even had me do some re-writes – but in the end they passed. Another publisher loved it and held onto it for over a year and then passed as well. I really didn’t want to self publish so I just put it away. Then one afternoon while sitting in my neighbor Lisa’s backyard, she shared with me her passion for art. I told her about my passion for writing children’s books and she agreed to illustrate And I Thought About You.
After three years, a new baby, and many changes on the job front, Lisa completed the illustrations. The publishing market had changed quite a bit with smaller hybrid publishing companies popping up. So we decided to do some research and that’s how we found Mascot Books. They are similar to a traditional publisher (it’s not print on demand) but we own the books that are printed. Mascot Books provides editorial and design services, as well as some marketing. It’s really been great to work with them.
This process was drastically different than the road to publishing Teaching Writing with Picture Books as Models. For that book, I had a meeting with some editors at Scholastic and presented the idea. They loved it and gave us a contract (I co-authored the book with my colleague Maria Koutras). Then, we wrote the book. Working with Scholastic was also a great experience. I still keep in touch with my editor and we even work on some projects together.
6) How do you promote your work? What methods have worked best for you?
We’ve been promoting our book by attending Book Festivals, sending press releases to various local papers, scheduling book signings and school visits, and sending review copies to various magazines, blogs, and organizations. Our publisher also does some promoting through their channels as well. Since the book has just come out – not sure which has worked best.
7) Who are your favorite authors? What is on your reading list right now?
My favorite children’s book authors are Libba Moore Gray, Patricia Polacco, Patricia MacLachlan, and Peter Reynolds. On my reading list is the Hunger Games and The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. One of my favorite books is Kate Morton’s Forgotten Garden.
8) When you are not writing, how do you spend your time? Describe a typical day in your life.
When I’m not writing I’m doing work for my local school board, spending time with my children and husband or playing with my dog. I don’t really have a typical day since I wear so many different hats. Sometimes I have meetings at 8:00 am and other times I stay in my sweatpants all day writing, marketing, reading, or catching up on my favorite TV shows. When I’m teaching a class at Fordham University in New York City, I go into the city at least once a week. I grade assignments and plan for subsequent classes during the semesters I teach. I also do project work for Educational Publishing companies so when I’m working on a project, I’m often doing research or writing. I try to go to the gym 3 times a week and in the summer I play a lot of tennis.
9) What projects do you have in the works?
I have a few manuscripts I’m working on. One I’m hoping will be a series is centered on a curiously inquisitive boy who seems to get himself into precarious situations.
10) What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?
Find time to write. Find time to talk with other writers. Participate in writing and reading groups. Don’t give up. Live life to the fullest – I find that’s when I’m most inspired.
I am a former teacher and currently an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University. I've written a professional book for teachers titled Teaching Writing With Picture Books as Models (Scholastic, 2000), as well as write professional development guides that support teachers growth and learning. I helped start Hong Kong Academy, an international school in Hong Kong, and I am the founder of Writers Experience, a summer writing workshop for children ages 7-11. Additionally, I am a School Board Member for my local school district.
Book Review: And I Thought About You
Roseanne Kurstedt took a daily ritual with her son and turned it into the delightful children's story, And I Thought About You. I have been a working mom, a homeschooling mom, a student/mom, and a work-from-home mom. I have always cherished the time that my daughter and I spend "catching up" even when I have been working only 1 room away from her. Rosanne's story resonates with me--loudly. It matters not whether a mom works outside the home or is a stay-at-home mom. Her job as a mother never ends. There are no days off, sick time, financial compensation, etc. Mothers have a never-ending connection with their children, so it is not unusual that they think of their children often.
Throughout the story, the author juxtaposes the working mother's daily activities against what she believes her son is doing. At the end of the day, they recap. And I Thought About You is a story of unconditional love and it teaches us how every mother is capable of giving it. It is well-illustrated capturing the essence of the story well.
And I Thought About You is a great read that working moms and children should share and emulate.